Site menu:


The conference will host over 40 scholars of various disciplines from North America, Europe, South Asia, and Australasia:


Artist: Vasuki
Artist: Kiko
Artist: Vasan

Abraham, S.
Ambalavanar, D.
Arasu, V.
Champakalakshmi, R.
Cheran, R.
Fukao, J.
George, G.
George, U.
Ghose, R.
Guruge, S.
Jegathesan, M.
Kanaganayakam, C.
Kanthasamy, P.
Karunakaran, K.
Karunanithi, G.
Kingsolver, A.
Mason, R.
Maunaguru, S.
Maunaguru, Sitralega
McNaughton, S.
More, J.B.P.
Orr, L.
Pai, G.
Palaniappan, S.
Pandian, M.S.S.
Rajesh, V.
Renganathan, V.
Sangarasivam, Y.
Seylon, R.
Shanmugam, K.
Sivalingam, H.
Sriramachandran, R.
Sundar, A.
Tambiah, S.J.
Tyyskä, V.
Vaitheespara, R.
Vivekananthan, P.
Whitaker, M.
Xavier, S.
Young, K.
Younger, P.

V. Rajesh

Graduate Student
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology - Madras

The Making of Sangam Literary Canon and Tamil Identity
Friday, June 1st |  12:30 - 2:30 PM

If language and literature are said to represent the collective consciousness of a community then the literary canon may constitute the collective memory and identity of the community in question. However in a multi-cultural and pluralist society like India when literary production is associated with power, the notion of a literary canon is historically contingent. Although literary canons like any other human artifact are a product of history, attempts to understand the Tamil literary canon of any period focus mostly on short time frame and are concerned more with the politicization of the literary canon rather than with the long-term processes that prepare the ground for it. The privileging of a particular literary text of a particular period does not necessarily mean that the literary text in question attains an absolute status without any contestation. What is important for a literary historian is to map these oscillations – the privileging and contestation that is more pronounced and obvious for a language, which has deep literary history.

I shall argue that the Sangam literary canon that we have in its present form is the outcome of a process intimately tied to the politics of kingship legitimacy, scholarly debates in commentarial tradition and identity assertion of various sorts. If the making of a literary canon is intimately tied to the politics of identity assertion of various sorts, then is there a way to study the literary history in its own terms? Does such an exercise require essentially reconfiguring the relations between history and literature? I shall attempt to search for an answer to these questions by taking recourse to the complex history of the making of the Sangam literary canon and Tamil identity.

Mr. Rajesh's current research interest is mapping the responses to the re-discovery of Sangam classics in late 19th and early 20th century Tamilnadu and its relation to the politics of Tamil identity. His article titled “Text and Time in Early Tamilakam” is published in Negotiations with the Past: Classical Tamil in Contemporary Tamil (eds.) M. Kannan and Carlos Mena.